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FRONTLINE: Kill/Capture

Airs Friday, July 22, 2011 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Taliban leader Khalid Amin, who now commands around 50 insurgents in the nort...

Credit: Courtesy of Shoaib Sharifi for FRONTLINE

Above: Taliban leader Khalid Amin, who now commands around 50 insurgents in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan after a U.S. Special Forces operation killed his predecessor.

Behind the strike that killed Osama bin Laden was one of the U.S. military's best-kept secrets: a covert campaign that officials have credited with taking out thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

A six-month investigation by FRONTLINE has gone inside the military’s “kill/capture” operations to discover new evidence of the program’s impact—and its costs. Under the command of Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. forces are carrying out an unprecedented number of targeted raids using highly classified intelligence, aerial drones and Special Operations Forces.

The Interviews

Read the interviews with Gen. David Petraeus, Karzai adviser Mohammad Daudzai, and New Yorker correspondent Dexter Filkins, featured in "Kill/Capture."

But is the tactic working? In interviews with Gen. Petraeus, his senior commanders and in rare footage with Taliban leaders and fighters, FRONTLINE producers Dan Edge ("The Wounded Platoon") and Stephen Grey ("Extraordinary Rendition") explore the logic behind the kill/capture policy and its consequences.

Traveling into the lawless border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, FRONTLINE tells the story from the perspective of Afghan civilians, U.S. troops and the Taliban militants they are pursuing. After almost 10 years of fighting, this film examines the question: Will kill/capture help end the war in Afghanistan?

FRONTLINE is on Facebook, and follow @frontlinepbs on Twitter.

Preview: Frontline: Kill/Capture

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Behind the strike that killed Osama bin Laden last week, FRONTLINE investigates inside the military’s “kill/capture” operations to discover new evidence of the program’s impact-and costs.

Did a controversial U.S. airstrike kill the wrong man?

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Early on the morning of Sept. 2, 2010, a convoy of six vehicles crossed a remote mountain range in northern Afghanistan and began a descent through an arid gorge. Without warning, an F-16 jet fighter attacked with two bombs, followed by a U.S. helicopter gunship. Within moments, eight people from the convoy were dead. The airstrike in Takhar province was one of thousands of "Kill/Capture" operations carried out during the last year by U.S. forces. Led by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the missions are veiled in secrecy. Military officials credit JSOC and the raids with major successes - including the death last week of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. But the results are not always so clear. Investigations into the Takhar strike have revealed evidence that contradicts the U.S. version of events, including the identity of the intended target. While the military says that a Taliban leader was among the dead, independent investigators have concluded that all those killed were civilians. "This was a very significant figure, a very precisely targeted operation, and those who were killed, were bad guys," Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Afghanistan, told me. According to a report released today after an eight-month inquiry by an independent group of researchers in Kabul, innocents were killed because of "grave flaws" in intelligence. "The evidence that this was an entirely civilian convoy is overwhelming. [...] The findings of the investigation raise systemic concerns over the intelligence which drives this and other targeted killings in Afghanistan," the report says. Who was killed in Takhar, and why? -by Stephen Grey

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